by Elisa Nader
Publisher: Merit Press
Reading level: YA
Book type: prose novel
Since the age of ten, Mia has lived under the iron fist of the fundamentalist preacher who lured her mother away to join his fanatical family of followers. In Edenton, a supposed “Garden of Eden” deep in the South American jungle, everyone follows the Reverend’s strict but arbitrary rules—even the mandate of whom they can marry. Now sixteen, Mia dreams of slipping away from the armed guards who keep the faithful in, and the curious out. When the rebellious and sexy Gabriel, a new boy, arrives with his family, Mia sees a chance to escape.
But the scandalous secrets the two discover beyond the compound’s façade are more shocking than anything they ever imagined. While Gabriel has his own terrible secrets, he and Mia bond together, more than friends and freedom fighters. But is there time to think of each other as they race to stop the Reverend’s paranoid plan to free his flock from the corrupt world? Can two teenagers crush a criminal mastermind? And who will die in the fight to save the ones they love from a madman who’s only concerned about his own secrets?
(synopsis from Goodreads)
The synopsis makes this one sound like a great read, right? The forty-four bookmarks' worth of "wish-I-had-a-red-pen" snarky editor comments in my e-reading app make it pretty clear that this book did not live up to my expectations. I rolled my eyes so many times while reading this, my eyeballs still hurt.
What's the problem? First of all, the Reverend, his dastardly master plan, and his absolute control over the community are too far-fetched to be believed. Edenton has supposedly been around for decades, and yet nobody except for our little heroine has been spunky enough to make any change until now. And Mia isn't really that special, so that doesn't make much sense. She's a Mary Sue, unremarkable in almost every way. She's supposedly "different" because she'd rather be out in the real world, having a 21st-century teenager experience, instead of blindly following the dictates of some religious nut in a South American jungle like an obedient sheep. That doesn't make her "different". That makes her extremely, boringly normal.
Second, we've got a bad case of insta-love going on here. I've seen quick romances in some YA books, but this one took the cake. Almost from the instant Mia lays eyes on Gabriel, she's smitten. Their first meeting (mere hours after his arrival) triggers some pretty sudden lovey-dovey crap in Mia, though all Gabriel really does is stand there looking sexy before stealing a kitchen knife. Then we get to listen to Mia go on about how she likes him, and then watch her act like she doesn't, and then roll our eyes when she thinks that maybe, just maybe, she should be thinking about things other than Gabriel's hot bod when the lives of two hundred people are at stake. Gee, Mia. You think?
Third, the writing was pretty awful, and the editing was even worse. There were so many continuity problems and plot holes that I got confused even trying to keep track of them all. And after all that, we got a heroine who isn't even the hero of her own story. I hate it when someone other than the protagonist ends up resolving the main conflict.
Fourth, we seem to be heading for a sequel. Do I really want to read another 270+ pages of Mia waffling over the oh-so-hot Gabriel? I don't think so. No, I know so. Escape from Eden was too long as it was. There's not much here to recommend, other than the hint of a perfectly good premise that was ruined by weak writing and an unrealistic romance.
Overall: 2 out of 5